travel

Travelling during COVID-19

I have just returned from my first overseas trip in five months, and although I was so excited to finally get away (and back to my favourite city; Amsterdam), I was also a little apprehensive at how drastically different the travelling may be. While there were notable changes – mainly to facilitate social distancing – the whole process at both airports ran smoothly and efficiently and I felt safe.

I flew out from London Luton, and from the moment I entered the airport, there were clear signs to follow and plenty of hand sanitiser stations to use.

I’d already checked in online (which is encouraged by most airlines now) and so I proceeded straight to security with my mobile boarding pass. Security was very quiet – I assume due to the fact number of flights is currently reduced – and there were plastic screens up to keep passengers separate when putting your belongings into trays.

Once through into the departure lounge, there were lots of signs stating the rules to ‘help protect yourself and others’, along with plenty of hand sanitiser stations. The seating areas had also been marked, with seats ranging from empty single chairs, those reserved for family groups and those which could not be used at all. Some food and drink outlets were open and allowed you to remove your mask for eating and drinking, as long as it was replaced as soon as you were finished. Shops such as WHSmith and Boots were also open.

Boarding the aircraft wasn’t too different from pre-COVID times, apart from a few small changes, such as scanning your own boarding pass and holding your own passport open to show staff rather than handing them over.

Once on the aircraft itself, there were no ‘spare’ or empty seats left between parties as some people predicted there would be, and we were asked to take our seats quickly and avoid walking around the aircraft. The cabin crew asked us to make sure there were only ever two people in the queue for the toilet at any time, and the on board magazines and menus had been temporarily removed. A reduced service was offered in terms of food and drink, and they no longer accept cash as payment.

Upon landing, disembarking was done in a very orderly fashion, and this is one thing I’d be more than happy to see stay long term! We left the plane row by row, only standing and retrieving bags from the overhead lockers once the row in front had moved.

There are currently forms that need filling in depending on which country you’re visiting, and your airline should inform you of this before your flight. I was never asked to show my health declaration form at passport control in Amsterdam, but I saw some people who were randomly selected to do so, so make sure you’ve filled in everything you need before you fly, just incase. When returning to the UK, you must complete an online form which can be found here. This cannot be completed until 48 hours before your return.

The return journey from Schiphol followed a similar pattern to my outbound journey, although the rules in The Netherlands are more relaxed than the UK and so masks were only necessary at the airport when passing through security and boarding the plane. Again, there were plenty of hand sanitiser stations and signs telling you to keep 1.5 meters apart (the distance necessary in The Netherlands). Schiphol have also set up a dedicated webpage with all of the information you need regarding travelling to and from the airport, your time in the airport and the most frequently asked questions from travellers. It was super helpful and something that we could really do with from the major UK airports too!

Overall, my travelling experience felt safe and well organised, and I wouldn’t hesitate to travel again in the near future (as long as government advice permits!)

For a full list of countries that can currently be visited from the UK, see the government list here.

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Where next?

Amsterdam

I’m heading back to Amsterdam in October with my sister. We were meant to stay at Roommate Aitana over Kings Day in April, but due to COVID-19 the trip was sadly cancelled. The hotel have kindly offered us an upgrade for our rebooking, so we’ll be staying in a junior suite, and I can’t wait!


Madrid

I love Spain and I love Spanish food, so it’s surprising to me that I’ve never made it to the capital of Spain. This is set to change August Bank Holiday weekend when I’ll be heading to Madrid for three days. I’ve been warned it gets exceptionally hot in August – good job I don’t mind the heat! We’ve booked a hotel with a pool, for when we need to cool down, and continuing my love of Roommate Hotels, I’ve booked to stay at Roommate Oscar, which apparently has one of the best rooftops in the city!


Seville

A couple of weeks after coming home from Madrid, I’m heading back to mainland Spain – this time to Seville. Named as ‘the frying pan of Europe’, it’s going to be around 36 degrees in mid-September, so again we’ve booked a hotel with a pool as we will definitely need some down time. We’ll be staying at Eurostars Sevilla Boutique, which is in the centre of the city and we managed to get a bargain price of £365 for 4 nights!

travel

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of my favourite European cities, and I head back whenever I can. I’ve done the bars/clubs/Red Light District all before, so now when I go its all about relaxing by the canals and enjoying the slower pace of life.

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Euro
  • Local time: GMT +1
  • Language: Dutch

Stay: Kimpton De Witt

The gorgeous Kimpton De Witt hotel is an excellent choice for luxury accommodation in Amsterdam. This 5* hotel offers exceptional service, luxury rooms and a great on site restaurant and house bar. They also have a wine hour at 5pm every day in the lobby for guests to meet up and swap tips on the city, along with free bicycles that can be hired from the concierge. What’s not to love?!

The location is perfect for exploring the nearby canals and Jordaan district, and is located only a few minutes walk from Centraal Station, meaning whether you arrive by aeroplane and jump on the quick intercity train or by Eurostar direct into Centraal Station, you can be checked into your hotel within 10 minutes of stepping off the train.


Do: Hire bikes, Red Light Secrets museum, canal cruise, A’dam Lookout, Albert Cuyp Markt, ice skating

When you ask most people what they associate with Amsterdam, the answer is usually one of two things; canals and bicycles. (Okay, there is a third – we all know about the ‘coffee shops’ in the city, but I’ll leave that up to you to explore if it’s your thing!)

There are plenty of places all over the city that offer bicycle hire, and most for a very reasonable price too! Pick one up and set aside a good couple of hours to go exploring – The numerous bike lanes make cycling around a joy, and its a great way to cover large amounts of the city in a small time frame. Get Your Guide offers a variety of cycling tours for those who wish to be guided through the city, and you can choose different lengths and languages.

The Red Light Secrets museum is a fascinating look into life in Amsterdams sex industry. The audio guides offer unique stories from women who have worked as prostitute in the city, and with the museum housed in an old brothel, it’s a great way to learn many of the secrets of this famous aspect of the city.

The A’DAM Lookout is located in Amsterdam North, just a short (free) ferry ride from Centraal Station. Aside from offering panoramic views across the city, there is a also bar and a restaurant at the top, and for those feeling brave, Over The Edge – Europes highest swing! Entry to the lookout is €12, and a swing ticket is €5. Pre-book to avoid the queues, then simply take the lift to the top, buckle up and enjoy an exhilarating ride that literally takes you over the edge of the building. The best bit? You get a free digital memento to keep as proof of your bravery!

Head down to the Albert Cuyp Markt in Amsterdam South to experience Europe’s largest daytime market. Selling everything from clothing and jewellery to fresh fruit and baked goods, there is plenty to see and you’re guaranteed not to go hungry! Particular mention goes to the freshly baked bitterballen and the Stroopwafels that are made in front of you and filled with either caramel or chocolate sauce!

If you’re heading in the winter time, make sure to check out the Ice* Amsterdam rink by the Rijks museum. Open November – February, it’s a great activity for children and adults alike, and each ticket includes skate hire and gives you a two hour slot to enjoy the ice. Wrap up warm and take some gloves – They’re mandatory!


Eat: Daalder, La Perla, The Butcher, Locanda, Senses, Pancakes Amsterdam. Jottum

Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities to eat in, and for good reason. The dining options are endless and cover all budgets.

Offering a unique dining option in the canal belt, Daalder serves up a ‘chefs surprise menu’, meaning you simply choose between 3, 4 or 5 courses at lunch or a 5 or 7 course dinner, and the chef will get to work on cooking for you! They always check for allergies or specific dislikes, and after that, its all a surprise! I particularly recommend opting for the wine pairings to accompany each course – They were expertly chosen and really added to the meal. Expect to spend around €130 for a 3 course lunch for two including wine pairings.

La Perla pizzeria, located in the heart of the Jordaan district is always packed, and rightly so. Fresh pizzas are the focus here, and the menu offers plenty of choice (Prosciutto San Daniele is a personal favourite). Turn up early and put you name down, then head to a canal side bar for a drink or two until your table is ready.

Also in the Jordaan area is Locanda, a cute Italian with a small but excellent menu of homemade Italian food. Tables line the streets outside in the warmer weather, but the inside of the restaurant is the star here – Think cozy interiors with small candlelit tables. Reservations are recommended here as it fills up quickly!

If decent burgers are your thing, then look no further than The Butcher. With a metal interior, it may not look like the most welcoming of burger bars, but the food more than makes up for it. (‘The Daddy’ is my personal favourite, but ‘The Butchers Wife’, with a grilled chicken breast instead of beef, is also an excellent choice).

For an incredible dining experience, head to Senses, headed up by chef Lars Bertelsen. With an emphasis on food art, every dish is exquisitely presented and the flavours are expertly paired. Choose the wine pairing option to accompany your meal to make it extra special! A 5 course dinner with wine pairings will cost around €110.

Jottum is the place to go for great tapas. A warm and buzzing restaurant with an extensive menu and delicious sangria to really give you that feeling of Spain! Particularly recommend the chorizo croquettas and the manchego and salami board.

You can’t visit Amsterdam without having pancakes, and while there are many, many options, there are our picks… For amazing fluffy pancakes and a warm welcome, head to Pancakes Amsterdam on Prinsengracht. They offer a set menu for around €14 including pancakes, orange juice and a hot drink. For a more traditional dutch crepe, head to The Pancake Bakery, also on Prinsengracht. Their cheese, bacon and mushroom pancake was excellent, and there is unlimited syrup on every table for guests. Perfect!


Drink: Cafe T’Smalle, P96, Super Lyan, Cafe Roenie’s

For a calming canal-side drink, I recommend heading to either Cafe T’smalle or P96 (a few minutes walk apart, both on Prinsengracht). Cafe T’smalle is a traditional wooden panelled pub, and is as lovely in summer when you can sit on the outdoor terrace with a cold beer as it is in winter when you can enjoy the candlelit interior with a glass of red wine. P96 is perfect for summer afternoons, as they have a stationary boat on the canal that you can enjoy your drinks on in the sunshine, watching the boats cruise along the canal, but it’s equally as great in winter, with cozy interiors and a great list of bar snacks to enjoy.

Attached to Kimpton De Witt hotel is the newly opened Super Lyan – the first international venture from Mr Lyan. With a gorgeous neon bar, plenty of seating and an extensive cocktail list (with two on draught!), make time for a drink here during your stay in the city. We particularly recommend the cucumber champagne!

Down near Vondelpark you’ll find Cafe Roenie’s – a laid back locals bar serving cold beer and a small selection of wines. A lovely ‘off the beaten track’ place to stop for a drink if you’ve spent the afternoon working up a thirst cycling around the park!